Commentary Archive

A ranking of the Big Ten programs over the past five years

Measuring success of a program over a set period of time is a difficult exercise because there are plenty of factors that belong in the equation.

Some would argue that NCAA tournament success is the most important ingredient. Others might argue for Big Ten wins. One particular program in the SEC might argue it’s NBA draft picks or recruiting that are most important. And someone who studies the numbers might look at something like a KenPom ranking as a way to measure the performance of a program.

Over the last few days, we put together an exercise to measure success of each Big Ten program over the last five years using all of the factors mentioned above. There were, of course, some challenges and a few things we had to work around with Rutgers and Maryland joining the league in that span of time.

But as you’ll see below, here is what we looked at as a part of the exercise:

· Regular season Big Ten wins over the past five seasons
· NCAA tournament wins over the past five seasons
· Recruiting class rankings over the past five signing classes (using the 247Composite rankings and including 2016, which is still ongoing)
· Players drafted by the NBA over the last five NBA drafts (2011-2015)
· Final KenPom ranking over the last five seasons

Why did we chose these factors?

· Big Ten wins are more relevant than total wins in a season because not all schedules are created equally.
· NCAA tournament wins are pretty self explanatory as they measure success in the season’s most important time.
· Recruiting rankings obviously are far from a perfect science, but they do at least provide a guide or a measurement of a program’s ability to identify and sign talent. Using a composite view of the rankings brings together all of the services to remove any potential biases.
· Players drafted to the NBA provides a snapshot of a program’s ability to develop players and get them to the next level. It obviously doesn’t look at NBA success, but once a player becomes a professional, his development is out of the hands of the program from which he came.
· KenPom’s rankings, in our opinion, are the best computer model to measure the complete performance of a team over a season and are far more valuable than any human poll.

Now, the caveats.

For Maryland and Rutgers, we had to use their conference wins in other leagues. For Rutgers, it didn’t matter too much. For Maryland, using ACC wins may have actually given a slight boost given that the Big Ten ranked ahead of the ACC in KenPom for each season affected (2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14).

For the NBA draft aspect, we only looked at players drafted, not players who have played in the NBA. For Ohio State, that means Deshaun Thomas and Jon Diebler, two guys who have never played in the league, are included. And for Iowa, it includes Aaron White, who also has yet to play in the league.

We also assigned more importance to some of the five categories. Here is how we weighted each category into the final equation:

· Regular season Big Ten wins over the past five seasons (30 percent)
· NCAA tournament wins over the past five seasons (30 percent)
· Final KenPom ranking over the last five seasons (25 percent)
· Players drafted by the NBA over the last five NBA drafts (7.5 percent)
· Recruiting class rankings over the past five signing classes (7.5 percent)

Why did we weight each category as such?

We wanted to assign the most value to winning conference games and NCAA tournament games. The KenPom ranking was also important because of the way it tracks the performance of a team over a complete season, but not as important as winning in the Big Ten or in March, so we assigned a little less value there. The NBA and recruiting factors definitely deserved a seat at the table, but you don’t hang banners for either one, so we assigned them just 1/4 of the value of winning in the Big Ten or the NCAA tournament.

The Inside the Hall Mailbag: April 22

The Inside the Hall Mailbag is a collection of questions tweeted to us via Twitter (@insidethehall), via email, submitted on our premium forum and sent to us via our Facebook page. Submit your questions and we’ll answer as many as we can.

THowenstine on the premium forum writes: Assuming that all BIG 10 players that have not hired an agent stay in college, and looking at the in-coming freshman, how would you rank the top 5 teams in the BIG 10 next year?

Starting off with a bang in this mailbag. I think the top three teams right now, in no particular order, are Michigan State, Indiana and Wisconsin. The Spartans lost a ton of pieces, but are adding the Big Ten’s best recruiting class and the league’s best coach, Tom Izzo, is still at the helm. Given your caveat, I’m assuming Nigel Hayes is back in Madison and if he is, the Badgers will have everyone of note back from a Sweet 16 team that improved as the season moved along. Indiana’s roster, that will be headlined by Thomas Bryant, is well known around these parts.

Beyond that is where it gets tricky.


That’s A Wrap: Team defense

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our recap of the 2015-2016 Indiana Hoosiers. Today, the series concludes with a look at Indiana’s defense.

Final stats (35 games): 69.9 ppg, 44.4 FG%, 49.8 eFG %, 34.3 3PFG%, 18.9 TO%, 30.2% FTR.

Indiana’s elite offense set the stage to contend for the Big Ten championship this past season, but it was the defense that won the league outright for the Hoosiers.

In 2014-2015, Indiana’s defense was a major problem. In 2015-2016, the defense grew into a strength. A comparison of defensive stats between the two seasons tells the story of improvement (Note: all numbers are what IU’s defense allowed):


Indiana had the nation’s 214th best defense in 2014-2015 according to KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency numbers and moved all the way up to No. 73 this season. In league play, the Hoosiers had the Big Ten’s 13th best defense a season ago and jumped up to No. 3 this season.

So how did it happen? A renewed focus on fundamentals, better communication, better personnel and a simplification of concepts.

Nick Zeisloft offered some insight into the focus on fundamentals during his appearance on Podcast on the Brink when he revealed that assistant coach Rob Judson took control of the defense in the offseason. It started with drills in June and while the improvement wasn’t visible through non-conference play, it began to take hold as the Hoosiers hit Big Ten season.

After allowing Kennesaw State to score 1.08 points per possession in the final non-conference tune-up, Indiana held nine of its first 10 Big Ten opponents under a point per possession. That’s an incredible statistic.

The growth in communication came from a variety of places. Yogi Ferrell was much more of a vocal leader as a senior and was an extension of the coaching staff on the floor, which was something that was missing last season. Thomas Bryant arrived and provided energy on the backend of the defense and like Ferrell, was very vocal.

Bryant also figures into the improved personnel, but his struggles in guarding ball screens early in the season were well documented. He improved as the season went along and so did Indiana’s defense.

But he was far from the only player who made strides as the season went on.

Juwan Morgan and OG Anunoby grew into defensive stoppers as their roles in the rotation increased. Zeisloft, a liability at times defensively, grew into a player the coaching staff felt comfortable putting on Jamal Murray in the NCAA tournament round of 32. Ferrell was a lockdown perimeter defender and a worthy pick for the league’s all-defensive team. Robert Johnson, who was called a “pure junkyard dog” by Bryant, didn’t get enough credit for his ability to guard on the perimeter.

After allowing opponents to finish over 62 percent of shots at the rim last season, Indiana put up much better resistance at the rim:


Add it all together and the Hoosiers grew from a team that allowed Duke to score 1.53 points per possession in early December to a team that held the nation’s No. 1 offense in Kentucky to .94 points per possession in the NCAA tournament. Indiana beat a major program in the tournament because of its defense, a development that would have been impossible to see coming in late December.

The simplification piece also holds importance as Indiana moved away from switching defenses mid-possession and opted to go straight man-to-man most of the time. With quality depth on the bench, the coaching staff had the ability to keep everyone accountable and use the bench for accountability. Once the Big Ten season started, if you didn’t guard, you typically sat on the sidelines.

Bottom Line: Indiana’s defense received many of the headlines throughout the season – and rightfully so – but the Hoosiers won the Big Ten with defense. It was a team effort with better coaching, better execution and better personnel to fit what the Hoosiers were trying to accomplish. It was a turnaround that nobody saw coming, but the Hoosiers finished with the third best defense in the Big Ten. In the Crean era, it was Indiana’s second best defensive team in conference play from a points per possession allowed perspective. With a strong core returning next winter and more talent arriving, it’ll be interesting to see if the Hoosiers can continue to win with defense.

Quotable: “What we learned from that game (Duke) was we need to be more aggressive. What we learned about ourselves is that we control that aggressiveness. We control our ball movement. We control our ability to not only be connected defensively, which we’ve really become, but to really get out and run. And as poor as our defense was early on in the year, our running game was equally as bad, because we weren’t getting enough stops. We weren’t getting out and playing fast enough. And really pre-Morehead State, which was December 5th, the one game that we really did it right was in the Creighton game. We played really well that night against a team at home and then we didn’t move the ball as well and we weren’t as connected defensively.

“But I think everything is continuing to improve because it’s — the fact of the matter is the guys continue to get better at Indiana. And they don’t just get better through practice and they don’t just get better through schemes and Xs and Os. They get better fundamentally. And it doesn’t matter if you’re Yogi Ferrell, who is a McDonald’s All-American, or some of our freshmen like OG and Juwan that were mildly recruited. They were recruited but they were mildly recruited. You get better.

“And eventually you really learn that you’re going to have, you are responsible to impact your teammates, and not only in the offensive end but the defensive end. And I think that’s been the biggest thing for us, and we’ve never lost two games in a row. So they’re absolutely resilient. They learn from their mistakes, they build on their successes and there’s never been a time where I walked into practice or walked out of practice thinking that we had some guys that were full of themselves. We’ve not had that at all. And I think that’s got a lot to do with why we’re here today.” – Crean on the team’s improvement prior to the Sweet Sixteen game against North Carolina

Previously: OG AnunobyJuwan Morgan, Thomas Bryant, Harrison Niego, James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson, Collin Hartman, Troy Williams, Nick Zeisloft, Max Bielfeldt, Ryan Burton, Yogi Ferrell, Tom Crean, Team offense

That’s A Wrap: Team offense

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our recap of the 2015-2016 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Indiana’s offense.

Final stats (35 games): 82.6 ppg, 50.2 FG %, 58.7 eFG %, 41.6 3PFG%, 19.6 TO%, 33.9% FTR.

Indiana’s offense was elite in the 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 seasons, but the Hoosiers took things to another level in 2015-2016.

A look at this season’s numbers, in comparison to those aforementioned seasons, bears that out:


This was Indiana’s best offensive team to date under Tom Crean in a variety of statistical categories. Among them: points per possession, effective field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage, 2-point field goal percentage, percentage of shots blocked and points per game.


That’s A Wrap: Tom Crean

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our recap of the 2015-2016 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: coach Tom Crean.

As the 2015-2016 season began, Tom Crean spoke out about his complicated reality as head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers.

Despite some success, not every Indiana fan was on board. Negativity existed. Some wondered if he was the man for the job.

“It’s not easy being Tom Crean,” read a headline on CBS in an article that detailed how both his son and daughter had been directly affected by such negativity.

“Tom Crean hears all the noise about his job security,” read another on ESPN in an article which described this year as “a season on the precipice for Crean.”


That’s A Wrap: Yogi Ferrell

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our player-by-player recap of the 2015-2016 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Yogi Ferrell.

Ferrell (35 games): 17.3 points, 5.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 55.0% eFG, 82.9 FT%, 42.0 3PFG% in 34.7 minutes per game.

The list of awards Yogi Ferrell collected during his senior season in Bloomington is an impressive one.

First team all-Big Ten. Big Ten all-defensive team. Wooden Award All-American. Associated Press All-American. Cousy Award finalist.

And that’s just a small sampling. His standing in the IU record books is perhaps even more impressive.


That’s A Wrap: Ryan Burton

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our player-by-player recap of the 2015-2016 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Ryan Burton.

Burton (24 games): 0.6 points, 0.4 rebounds, 77.8% eFG, 57.1 3PFG% in 3.2 minutes per game.

There are moments in every season that may not stand out at the time as meaningful, but when looked back upon later, made a difference between winning and losing.

Senior walk-on Ryan Burton had two of those moments in his final season in Bloomington.

A former Division II player at Bellarmine University in Louisville and a native of Bedford, Burton came to Indiana to focus on being a student in the Kelley School of Business. It was a dream come true for him to play out his final two seasons of eligibility for Indiana. In his final year at IU, he helped the Hoosiers capture a Big Ten championship.


That’s A Wrap: Max Bielfeldt

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our player-by-player recap of the 2015-2016 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Max Bielfeldt.

Bielfeldt (35 games): 8.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 58.2% eFG, 70.5% FT, 45.3 3PFG% in 17.5 minutes per game.

When Devin Davis and Hanner Mosquera-Perea were dismissed from the program last May, Indiana’s frontcourt depth for the 2015-2016 season appeared to be in major jeopardy.

Fortunately for the Hoosiers, Michigan made the curious decision to not bring Max Bielfeldt back for a fifth season despite having an open scholarship. And after Bielfeldt won an appeal from the Big Ten that allowed him to transfer within the conference and IU parted ways with Davis and Mosquera-Perea, the pursuit of the Michigan big man was on.

Things moved quickly from there as Bielfeldt announced that he would spend his final year of eligibility in Bloomington on June 2. Indiana beat out Iowa State, DePaul and Nebraska to land him and in retrospect, it was a major coup for Tom Crean and the IU coaching staff.


That’s A Wrap: Nick Zeisloft

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our player-by-player recap of the 2015-2016 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Nick Zeisloft.

Zeisloft (35 games): 6.5 points, 1.6 rebounds, 60.8% eFG, 90.5% FT, 41.7 3PFG% in 20.1 minutes per game.

Nick Zeisloft arrived in Bloomington with a reputation as a shooter.

He’ll depart having lived up to that billing, but also as a player who grew into a contributor with the ability to impact the game in other ways.

Any discussion about Zeisloft, however, must start with his prowess from the perimeter. After finishing his first season at Indiana with the second best offensive rating in the country according to, Zeisloft again filled it up from the perimeter as a senior.


That’s A Wrap: Troy Williams

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our player-by-player recap of the 2015-2016 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Troy Williams.

Williams (35 games): 13.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 55.4% eFG, 69.1% FT, 34.7 3PFG% in 26.2 minutes per game.

When Troy Williams announced that he would return to Indiana for his junior season in April of 2015, he did so with high hopes for what the Hoosiers could accomplish as a team in his third season.

“I love my teammates and coaches and with continued work, I think we can accomplish so much,” he said at the time. “This is a special place and I can’t wait to see our team grow over the coming months.”

While the path to get there had plenty of bumps in the road, Williams and his teammates accomplished plenty in the 2015-2016 season, including a regular season Big Ten championship. Individually, Williams earned All-Big Ten third team honors.